Have you recently brought home a puppy? Are you considering adding a four-legged family member? Do you have a friend with a new puppy? 

In the current climate, many puppy training clubs, groups and schools have moved online and the many ‘firsts’ your puppy will experience may look very different due to the pandemic. For example, vets are not allowing owners into the consult rooms and playgrounds are closed (good exposure to children). However, there’s still a number of important lessons your puppy can learn while maintaining social distancing. It’s important to remember socialisation is about exposing your puppy to new experiences, objects and environments. 

Here, Nicole Pope, Nicole Wain and Simone Dillon share their ideas for puppy training and socialisation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Crate training is a valuable tool to teach your puppy and can be done in the comfort of your home. 
  • Do 5 minutes of training a day with your new puppy. This is the PAWfect amount of time for them to learn new skills. 
  • Play games around the house like hide and seek to mentally stimulate your puppy. You can also hide their food in toilet rolls and cardboard boxes.
  • Get your puppy used to riding in your car by taking short drives around your neighbourhood, rewarding when you reach your destination.
  • Play thunder, heavy rain and firework soundtracks at home while playing with your puppy and rewarding with treats to desensitise him to storms. Act like nothing is happening and don’t make a big deal out of the noise. 
  • Pretend you’re not home for 30 minutes a day so your puppy gets used to being alone when you return to work. This is VERY important! Set a timer and don’t return to your puppy until the timer is up. Each ‘stint’ alone should result in less barking, crying or howling. Remember to return to your puppy calmly, reward with a treat and don’t make a big fuss about your return. 
  • Introduce your puppy to household items like the vacuum, mop and kitchen noises, such as pots and pans and the oven timer.
  • Sit at your local shopping centre (maintaining social distancing) and allow your puppy to watch the people passing by. 
  • Wear costumes, wigs and big coats around the house as your puppy will experience a range of different looking people out in the community.
  • Get your puppy used to wheelchairs, bikes, skateboards and prams if you have access to them.
  • Hop in the car and drive somewhere where your puppy can watch other dogs and livestock (like horses, sheep) from the window or from a distance. 
  • Introduce your puppy to a number of different surfaces. Get them to walk over grass, sand, dirt, pavement, roads, level and un-level wood, cushions etc.
  • Practice walking with the leash around the house and garden, rewarding loose leash walking.

Photo credit: Meagan Thomas Photography

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